Nutrition demand from SRC
Retailers urge government to support healthy diet
Retailers are demanding the Scottish government joins the industry in a campaign to improve the public’s diet.
In the third of four policy papers ahead of next year’s Scottish general election it calls for diet and nutrition to form a key part of all parties’ manifestoes.
The Scottish Retail Consortium, the industry’s trade body, says it has been helping consumers make healthier choices through better labelling and by direct engagement through new media.
This has helped remove thousands of tonnes of sugar, salt and billions of calories from a wide selection of products.
“Retailers have also been the first to remove the use of hydrogenated vegetable fats from all their food stuffs and have gone further by removing large quantities of saturated fat from ready meals, desserts, crisps, pastries and other products,” said the SRC.
“Against a challenging economic backdrop retailers have also ensured that hard-pressed consumers can feed their families from a choice of high quality, nutritious food and on a budget. This has included the extensive and daily price promotion of fruit and vegetables, provision of menu cards, meal suggestions and cooking tips to help combat the myth that healthy food is more expensive.”
The SRC says the challenge of combating Scotland’s track record for poor diet and health is not one for the retail industry alone.
“That is why the publication is also setting out a range of commitments we would like to see each of the political parties adopt in order to support further progress not just from the retail industry but also to secure greater responsibility from the wider food industry and to support more informed consumer decisions.”
However, David Martin, head of policy and external affairs at the SRC, said the industry needed the cooperation of government.
“Retailers have been very progressive in these areas but are being put at a competitive disadvantage because a significant proportion of the food industry has not made this investment in public health. As we approach the Holyrood election we ask each of the political parties to bear this in mind to take steps to help retailers go further but also to ensure that the entire food industry is playing its part.”
In the meantime, Food Standards Scotland said it had noted the Commons’ Health Select Committee report on the potential for introducing a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, alongside other measures.
Ross Finnie, chairan of FSS said: “As the organisation in Scotland with a statutory duty to ensure that people have diets that support good health, FSS is interested in the analysis and evidence base for a sugar tax, and this report, alongside Public Health England analysis, will form part of our deliberations and help underpin our recommendations to Ministers over the next two months.
“Whilst a sugar tax could be considered as part of the solution, there is not one single ‘silver bullet’ to addressing obesity and diet-related health problems in Scotland. FSS evidence is clear that sugar is not the only contributory factor to the problems that Scotland faces with diet, and as two out of three adults in Scotland is overweight or obese, fat in the diet and over-consumption of certain types of calorie-dense foods also need to be addressed.”
As the first step, the FSS board will discuss dietary goals in the light of the independent Scientific Advisory Committee (SACN) recommendations at its next meeting on 9 December and again on 20 January.
The board will consider its evidence-based advice to ministers on actions that could help address the SACN recommendations and improve the Scottish diet, and it will then be for Ministers to determine the way forward.